There was much for local students to celebrate at the VEX Robotics California State Championship, held at California’s Great America March 14-16.
What sounds like a complicated process of finding parts and building robots, is actually somewhat simple. Students use VEX Robotics Design Systems to build robots that compete in teams against other robotics teams. Alliances of three teams compete in a 15-second “autonomous mode,” where the robots run through the challenges without help from the team, and a one minute and 45 second driver-controlled competition.
Robots score points by picking up team-colored “BuckyBalls” (multi-sided small balls) and dropping them into cylindrical tubes and by placing large balls on top of the tubes. Robots also score points by moving BuckyBalls and large balls into the Middle Zone, removing another team’s balls from the cylinders and by hanging from a bar, or hanging from the bar while holding onto a large ball. Four teams compete at once (two from each alliance) and varying points are given for each task. At the end of each round of driver-controlled competition, the points are added up and a winning alliance is named.
In the high school division, the blue team consisting of Champs Charter School in Van Nuys and two teams from El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills beat the red team of two NightHawk Robotics Clubs teams from Murrieta Valley High School and Lancers A from Grace Brethren Junior and High School in Simi Valley, winning the first game 63-59 and the second 55-45.
But, it was the middle schools that brought out local talent, as students from The Harker School in San Jose (off Saratoga Avenue) were part of the winning team. Raining Sunshine and Eaglebots from Harker teamed up with the Grizzly Bots from Grange Middle School in Fairfield to beat the team of the Rattler Robotics from Ranchero Middle School in Hesperia, Lancers C from Grace Brethren and the RoboKrabs from Cregier Robotics in Lancaster, eeking out a win in the first game 54-53 and annihilating the competition 63-13 in the second.
“[Our robot] is somewhat simple compared to a lot of other robots,” said Andrew Chang, who teamed up with Harker seventh graders Rathvik Panchapakesan, Chris Gong and Kaushik Shivakumar to form the Eaglebots.
“We were going for simple and compact,” said Gong, who added that the team has been practicing two to four hours a week for the past nine months. Shivakumar mentioned that the robot’s main goal was to stack BuckyBalls into the tubes.
Chang also said that the team did not think they would make it as far as they did, and only got to the finals because the girls of Raining Sunshine (Harker eighth graders Jessica Susai, Maya Kumar, Mona Lee, Aria Coalson and Anooshree Sengupta) picked them as part of their alliance.
Raining Sunshine, whose robot, according to Kumar, specializes in doing BuckyBalls “quickly, efficiently and reliably,” said they picked the boys because it was the only team they recognized. The pairing worked out well for both teams.
“I thought we would never make it this far,” said Coalson. “Our robot kept on malfunctioning since the past two competitions so we would either miss a round and basically not have enough points to move on, or our robot would just spasm and not work, so this is the first time our robot actually worked through the whole thing and I think we got what we deserved.”
Over 60 teams from across the state participated in the event. Both Raining Sunshine and the Eaglebots will compete in the VEX Robotics World Championship in Anaheim, Calif. April 22-25.